Composite introduction

Snow College Richfield instructor Chad Avery demonstrates a piece of equipment used for cutting carbon fiber Aug. 27. He was introducing students to the course, which covers both carbon fiber and fiberglass technologies.

Technology has transformed industries countless times, and Snow College Richfield is offering courses in what may be the next revolution.

The composites course offered by Snow Richfield allows students to get hands-on training when it comes to the world of fiberglass and carbon fiber techniques.

“This is my second semester teaching the course,” said Chad Avery instructor.

This semester’s course started Aug. 27 as students gathered in a classroom/shop for their introduction to the syllabus.

The room had no chairs, as there is an emphasis on teaching students not only from the textbook, but also with the equipment used in the industry.

Carbon fiber is a type of material that has been gaining in popularity. It’s lightweight, flexible and can be stronger than steel, Avery said.

One of the items Avery showed his students was a piece of carbon fiber that could be used in making prosthetic limbs. Carbon fiber construction allows for people with leg amputations to run again.

One area where carbon fiber makes more progress every year is the automotive industry. High performance vehicles often have carbon fiber hoods, wheels and other parts to cut down on weight.

“The thing that’s holding it back right now is the cost,” Avery said. He said there are efforts underway to make carbon fiber construction more financially efficient.

“Once the price drops, lookout,” Avery said.

The composites program at Snow will be able to offer certificates of proficiency  — one for basic and one for advanced.

The equipment students are instructed on includes a machine used to cut the sheets of carbon fiber, an oven that can bake items at a temperature of more than 600 degrees, and an autoclave that combines both heat and pressure in order to get the strongest finish possible out of composite materials.

Composites are made up of sheets of material and resin. However, the materials have a shelf life and in order to keep the chemical reactions from starting, many of them have to be stored in a freezer that keeps them at negative 4 degrees. As materials are removed from the freezer, their time outside of it has to be logged.

Once materials reach the end of their shelf life, they have to be disposed of.

Students are also instructed in the correct techniques for calculating and measuring resins and material in order to have the desired finished product.

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